Gov. Doug Ducey was forced to halt his speech to the GOP faithful Saturday amid jeers from Republican protesters who say the governor is advocating unconstitutional gun control measures aimed at stopping gun violence.
The protesters interrupted Ducey several times as he spoke at the Arizona Republican Party’s annual meeting, chanting “No Red Flag” as they held corresponding signs. Ducey has said he supports the so-called laws, which allow courts to remove guns from people who are mentally ill or believed to be violent, and thinks they will cut down on mass shootings.
But the laws are opposed by Second Amendment advocates, who believe most every restriction on who can possess firearms is unconstitutional.
The heckling ended after Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward warned the protesters that they would be removed from the event if they continued.
“Everyone that’s here that’s standing in protest, you’ve been heard,” she said after Ducey stood silently on stage for more than 10 seconds during the interruption.
Ducey responded to the protesters and said that Arizona “is the number one pro-Second Amendment in the nation, and that’s not going to change.”
The governor went on to rehash his State of the State speech, emphasizing the state’s efforts to improve education and rejecting the idea of Arizona having a sanctuary city.
“We’ve done a lot for charter schools,” Ducey said. “We’ve done a lot for teachers but the union is back and we had a message for them: no new taxes, not this session, not next session, not in the chamber, not in the ballot box, and not on my watch!”
Rallying around Trump
A running theme throughout the speeches made by elected officials was the ongoing impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, called the impeachment “a sham,” a sentiment echoed many times by other speakers.
U.S. Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed to the Senate last year, did not attend the meeting because of the ongoing impeachment trial, but said in a video message that the impeachment is nothing short of an attempted coup by Democrats.
“Adam Schiff and his Schiffshow have clearly stated … that they wanted to overturn the results of the 2016 elections and keep President Trump out of the ballot in 2020,” McSally said. “If you’ve been watching it all, I’m sure you feel like it’s more painful than having dental surgery without anesthesia.”
McSally had for months told the media and supporters that she intended to take the impeachment charges seriously. However, as the trial drew nearer, she abandoned that view and declared her intentions to acquit Trump.
McSally’s recorded speech was not well received by many in the crowd, and she was booed by attendees who support Republican primary opponent Daniel McCarthy.
McCarthy, who is generally not viewed as a serious opponent to McSally, had numerous supporters at the meeting holding signs and wearing “Demand Daniel McCarthy” t-shirts.
But McSally received broad support for attacking the media and justifying calling journalists “liberal hacks.”
“We know Maricopa County and Arizona are being targeted by the far left Dems in Washington who don’t stand for the values of most Arizonans,” McSally said. “What’s even worse is the media is right in step with the Democrats and their extreme agenda. They don’t even realize it, of course, so they didn’t like it when I called them liberal hacks.”
Ducey in his speech also emphasized how vital it is for Republicans to drive voter turnout in 2020. Aside from re-electing Trump, he said the threat that Democrats will win control of the Arizona Legislature is growing.
“My name is not on the ballot in 2020, but the future direction of our state and country is,” Ducey said. “We are one seat away from having a California-style state legislature. Those are the stakes we have here.”
McSally also called Arizona “ground zero” in keeping the Senate majority in the hands of the Republican Party. She is expected to face former astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in November.
Kelly has raised far more money for his campaign than McSally has.